The town of Halifax is taking the first steps to implement a roundabout at a troubled intersection.
At its Tuesday evening meeting, Halifax Town Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution of support for a Smart Scale application submitted by Halifax County for a roundabout at intersection of L.P. Bailey Memorial Highway and Bethel Road.
Councilman Bill Covington made the motion, and Councilman Michael Trent seconded the motion.
The resolution states the roundabout will help enhance “traffic safety and pedestrian safety improvements” at the intersection of highways 501 and 360 and will create an opportunity to construct “needed pedestrian/bicycle, vehicle traffic-calming and environment improvements” to complement the Route 360 Bridge Replacement Project and Banister River Gateway Project, as well.
U.S. 501 from the intersection of LP Bailey Memorial Highway/North Main Street to Va. 360 (North Main Street/ Bethel Road) is one of the segments identified as a priority in the Town of Halifax’s 2045 regional long-range transportation plan.
Transportation is one of the focus areas of the “Here’s Halifax!” Working Group, and business development chairman Trent gave an update on the progress during the work session. Councilman Jack Dunavant asked for an update on a requested Church Street/U.S. 501 intersection improvement project as a follow-up to that.
“That’s a very dangerous intersection. It comes in at a very acute angle,” Dunavant said. “From a safety standpoint, I think we need to hold VDOT’s feet to the fire on this.”
Town manager Carl Espy responded that the Church Street improvement project was submitted to VDOT as a Smart Scale project in 2018 and did not rank as a high priority. However, he said a new Michael Baker International study, which is reviewing the intersections and segments identified as priorities in the town of Halifax’s 2045 long-range transportation plan, could be a platform for bringing the proposed Church Street intersection improvement project back onto VDOT’s radar.
Espy also provided council a brief update on the status of an infrastructure/ beautification project currently underway: the Halifax Downtown Streetscape/ War Memorial Enhancement Project. Ramirez Contracting, LLC is the project contractor. Work began on the project on June 30 and is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 18, weather permitting.
“Things are moving along pretty well on that project, I think” Espy said. “They’ve been concentrating mostly on work in the Maple Avenue parking lot behind the war memorial, removing pavers and making sure the irrigation system is working at the war memorial site. I anticipate within the next seven to 10 days they may shift the work over to demolition along the intersection itself, and that’s going to require some lane closures and some signage for a temporary detour to utilize Greens Folly and Sinai Road.”
Along with enhancing the infrastructure of the town of Halifax, council members also discussed ways to improve the visual appeal and overall safety of the town by making capital improvements and addressing derelict/ nuisance properties.
Council members unanimously approved the finance committee’s recommendation to refinance a Sun Trust — now known as Truist — bond and use the funds acquired from the refinancing to make capital improvements to the town. One of the capital projects for which the funds will be allocated is a new roof and improvements to the parking lot of the Halifax Market Place. Council also set a public hearing on the topic for its next business meeting for 7 p.m. Aug. 11.
“This rate is quoted at 3.3% for 15 years, which will provide us a $7,100 deposit in cash flow on an annual basis, and will provide us the funds to do the repairs and improvements we want to do,” Mayor Dexter Gilliam explained to the council in the work session. “I think the terms are favorable, and I would recommend that council would proceed with the public hearing.”
Addressing derelict/nuisance properties was a related topic of discussion in council’s work session. Espy provided for council’s review a list of all the derelict properties — a total of 29 — in the town of Halifax. One property that caught the council’s attention is the Halifax Swimming Pool Association’s property on Houston Street. Espy shared that the town continues to try to contact the pool’s stakeholders and a certified letter sent to the property owners has been returned.
“I think it is a magnet for young people more than these other properties are,” Trent said. “I worry about a beat-up, vacant pool. From my standpoint, it just needs to be safe.”
Espy agreed, adding, “Not being maintained or policed at all is an added liability.”
Trent asked if the building inspector could visit the property and take a look at the vacant pool. Espy said yes, steps could be taken to address any unsafe property in the town of Halifax.
In other business, council approved an agreement with Halifax County for the use of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. The agreement states Halifax County will distribute the funds to the town of Halifax on or before Aug. 10.
Espy shared with council in a June 24 meeting that Halifax County received about $2.9 million in CARES Act funds, and the town of Halifax is entitled to about $106,000 of those funds based on its population.
Other items of business:
• Finance chairman Covington reported the town finished fiscal year 2019-2020, which ended June 30, on a strong note, with revenues outweighing expenditures.
• Council reviewed the Halifax Police Department’s report for the month of June submitted by Chief Stuart Comer. The police department made no felony arrests and 17 misdemeanor arrests in June, issued no protective orders, made no medical transports, issued 71 traffic summonses, responded to two traffic accidents with minor injuries, issued 36 warnings for miscellaneous violations, and responded to 527 calls for service. The department received a report of one street light outage — a town street light on Main Street — on June 15.
• Council unanimously approved a resolution proclaiming May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week to honor the service of members of the Virginia State Police, the Halifax Police Department, South Boston Police Department and Halifax County Sheriff’s Office.